The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North is a book I almost gave up on, but I’m glad I didn’t because I ended up liking it. I have never gone from a book I thought about DNFing to liking a book this much before.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a science fiction book about a man that lives the same life multiple times. Harry August remembers all his previous lives and when he dies he is recreated back to the beginning where he started. Harry travels the world in search of knowledge and meets many different and compelling people. Eventually he finds the Chronos Club, a club of people just like him, individuals that relive their lives. Harry finds out that each generation of Chronos Club members talk to the previous generation and the upcoming generation. People like Harry knows what happens in the future and can also pass messages back through time. When an ominous message gets passed down from the future that the world is ending, and that it is constantly getting sooner, Harry knows that one of the Chronos Club members must be involved.
Basically, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North is a time loop novel, but each of Harry’s lives are different. The same things don’t happen for each of Harry’s life but the large events in society always happen. The Chronos Club tries not to interfere much with things and most of the time events are so large it is virtually impossible to do so. It is written in first person from the viewpoint of Harry August. The book is mostly linear but jumps back to Harry’s previous lives at times to explain something that gives the current scene more context. The beginning was difficult for me to get into as the narrator only described Harry’s life and there was very little dialogue. The normal voice of the narrator was monotonous and made an already dry beginning of a complex book, more boring. Claire North’s description of Harry’s origins, though important to the story, was long winded. Once Harry finds the Chronos Club, about 1/4 of the way into the book, the book becomes much better.
There is a ton of history involved in this book. From the 1920’s to about the 1990’s, Harry experiences all that the world has to offer and during that time our world goes through a huge change. As a person that loves history, this was easily one of the best parts of the entire book. Harry sees different events unfolding around him but we get a slightly different perspective based on his experience over his lived lives. I think if you enjoy history then this book might be something you’d enjoy.
Harry isn’t necessarily the most interesting character and I think the slow start plus this fact made me almost quit the book. Harry, in all intensive purposes is boring but I find him to be a good guy. I think Harry is a great counter to the story’s antagonist, who is by far the most interesting character, and when he comes into the book, makes the book so much better.
The thing that is important to understand before you read this book is that the enjoyment of this book will come down to how much you like the basic premise. If the idea of someone living multiple, same lives, and the ability to transfer information from the future into the past, isn’t something that sounds intriguing, than you probably won’t care for the book much. A lot of the conversations go into scientific detail and theory about this type of “time travel,” and that is where this book just came alive for me. There are many classic science fiction discussions that deal with time travel in this book. I found myself thinking about the ramifications of something like this if it was real. When a book causes me to think about it while I’m not reading it, then it has done something unique.
4/5 16/25 Possible Score
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 2(O.K.)
Setting/World Building – 4(Strong)
Writing Style – 3(Good)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 3(Good)